There are some books I give up on because they just don’t ‘grab’ me; there are some books that have me turning the pages quickly to keep up with the fast-paced plot; and there are books like The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J Church where each page is a delight to be savoured and cherished.
Medidian Wallace is an only child who is encouraged to achieve her potential at a time when women were housewives, secretaries or teachers. She develops an interest in birds when her father gives her a couple of books on the subject before he dies at an early age and Meridian takes this interest with her to the University of Chicago in 1941. It is here that she meets and falls for Alden Whetstone, a brilliant physicist 20 years her senior. Alden treats her as an intellectual equal and she loves him for this as much as anything. But then the war called upon Whetstone to go to Los Alamos and work on a top secret project. Meridian agrees to go there with him for a year, to put her Masters studies on hold. But the year stretched and stretched until Meridian lost sight of who she used to be and her relationship with her older husband changes in ways that make her very unhappy indeed. One day, while watching and recording the behaviour of crows in the canyon, Meridian comes across a young man called Clay and her safe, sedate world begins to change beyond all recognition.
Ms. Church’s writing is beautiful, evocative and she draws her characters so assuredly it’s hard to believe this is her debut novel. Meridian is a wonderful character and due to the author’s skill, I believe I could see the world through the character’s eyes. The character development is totally believable and I found myself laughing and screaming with Meri at various points in the book.
I was drawn to consider my world today and compare it with that of the post-war period while recognising the universal truths that we still share.
The novel deals with the themes of death, the circle of life, generation gaps, war and, of course, love in its many forms.
I really can’t recommend this book enough and it is definitely in my top three books of the year so far. I look forward to reading more from this talented author.
The Atomic Weight of Love is published in October by Fourth Estate. I was given a copy by Netgalley in return for an honest review.